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Lee, Gregory Barry (1985) Dai Wangshu: The life and poetry of a Chinese Modernist. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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Dai Wangshu as a poet and a personality made a controversial and lasting impact on the Chinese literary world of the 1930s and 1940s. Since the 1950s, however, many literary figures of the time have suffered neglect because they are not easily categorized as belonging to the orthodoxies of Left or Right. This has been so in Dai Wangshu's case. Moreover, there is also genuine confusion about Dai's political and literary beliefs. This thesis aims to revaluate Dai's position in the canon of modern Chinese literature and, by chronicling his literary, political and personal life, to present a comprehensive picture and correct current misconceptions. There is a biographical emphasis as a result of much new information uncovered in the course of the author's research. The approach is chronological and covers Dai's early involvement in poetry and politics in late 1920s Shanghai, the process of intellectual sophistication and expansion in Europe, his anti-Japanese stance during the war period in Hong Kong and the final years of poetic silence leading up to his premature death in Peking, in 1950. Dai's poetry is treated in terms of theme, language and form to reveal the poet's growth and progression of style. The extent of the poet's retention of classical Chinese poetic elements and the assimilation of Western post-Symbolist and other poetic influences are assessed in order to arrive at the essence of the poet's style, to examine its effectiveness as a modern medium for the expression of poetic thought and to decide the appropriateness of the label 'Modernist'. The definition of Modernism is thus broached and discussed. Previously unconsulted material such as letters, diary fragments and manuscripts have been exploited and in the discussion of Dai's poetry and the literary and political questions of his day, extensive use has been made of correspondence and interviews conducted in China.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 14:58

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